By Carl Coon
Paul Reisler has made his Kid Pan Alley songwriting program known throughout the nation, but its home and heart is still right here in Rappahannock County. His claim to fame is more than his own musical talents; it rests on the extraordinary ability he and his associates have to generate unbelievable enthusiasm for songwriting among the younger students in public elementary schools.
You have to see it to believe it. Jane and I saw it last Friday at a Kid Pan Alley concert at Rappahannock County Elementary School. It was bedlam, of course; I didn’t know there were that many moppets in our generally placid county. We were there because a few days earlier we’d been asked to talk to some of the students about our experiences abroad, and possibly give them some ideas for songs. John Bourgeois was there too, surrounded by his own band of enthusiastic but inexperienced youngsters, as were storytellers Beverly Hunter, John Lesinski, James Reston and Cheryl Toth.
Jane and I talked about crows, and cows in India, but it was only when we mentioned elephants that the kids lit up. That really got them started, and after we left they (with a little coaching from Paul) concocted a whole new song about India. It was featured at the concert, and I’m sure Paul can make it available on request. John was similarly successful.
The concert featured about eight songs altogether and nobody got bored, which is saying something considering the normal attention span of a first- or second-grader. This concert wasn’t my usual cup of tea but was well worth it as a demonstration of the energy in the youngest members of our society and of Paul’s uncanny ability to unlock it.